Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans
AUC Heartland Hearing – Day 15
Proceedings on May 3 included individuals and groups pointing out additional errors in the Applicants’ data, calculations and mailing lists.
RETA lawyers asked questions about the recent amendment realigning the Applicants’ preferred route closer to a series of pipelines that run through the Sherwood Park Greenbelt next to hundreds of homes. The new distance between the realigned power line and pipelines varies, and in some locations is as little as 36 metres. Under cross examination, the Applicants stated that they would still be able to mitigate any pipeline-power line hazards and achieve zero risk.
The Applicants made it clear that their first preference was to build the Heartland line in the recently-amended preferred route location, second preference in the initial preferred route, third preference either monopole or underground in their preferred route, and last preference in their alternate route.
With respect to submitting an amended preferred route in the middle of the AUC hearing (April 26), the Applicants were asked how it was possible to all of a sudden get agreement from Alberta Infrastructure to move their preferred route to another part of the Sherwood Park Greenbelt. This was particularly surprising considering all the careful work and negotiations on this route between the Applicants and Alberta Infrastructure during the past 3 years. No new assessments (visualization, environmental, etc) were conducted of this new routing before it was submitted to the AUC last week.
Consultations have begun with residents who would now be located much closer to the Applicants’ realigned preferred route. There was significant confusion about what opportunities would be available to these homeowners for participation in the AUC hearing process which has already been underway for over 3 weeks. The Applicants stated they had received emails from other people who are not appreciative of the proposed line being moved a short distance farther away from their homes; rather, they continue to want the line buried.
The rural landowner who had taped an April 16 conversation between his family and an AltaLink land agent continued cross examination of the Applicants. In spite of this family’s unique situation, with the proposed overhead Heartland line running along 2 sides of their farm home, the Applicants continued to suggest remedies unacceptable to the family. The Applicants’ business practices and overall approach were seriously questioned, with the landowner refusing to accept the Applicants’ April 29 apology for the “appalling” conduct of their land agent.
HALO (Homeowners Against Lines Overhead) continued to press the Applicants for more detailed data in order that a proper accounting and audit of the proposed project could be conducted. In the absence of these data, the Applicants were asked whether they would then agree to an independent third-party audit, considering all of the costing errors brought to the Applicants’ attention. They refused. As part of defending their costing estimates and the amount of time and money spent providing information to interveners including a stakeholder-requested underground option, the Applicants indicated there were pressures from other groups to keep costs down. For example, AltaLink’s Mr. Watson stated that the Industrial Consumers Association of Alberta couldn’t care less whether the Applicants run over wetlands and people’s homes with the power line – they were interested only in keeping costs down.
Under cross examination by the AUC, the Applicants indicated that the underground option was safer than the overhead option, and that there was little difference in the reliability and materials availability between the two options. The Applicant also indicated that staging was possible with the underground option, but not with the overhead option; in fact the Applicants indicated that staging construction of transmission capacity made sense from a cost perspective. With respect to in-service dates of transmission line operation, the Applicants indicated that the AUC should not consider this a major issue because the “lights would not go out” regardless of which option (underground or overhead) was selected. The Applicants indicated that if costs were equal, they would recommend the underground option; and in general that if costs were equal, transmission companies would be burying a lot more lines.
The Applicants indicated that their “150-metre” policy was not a hard and fast rule (wherein they would offer buyout only if the new power line was going to run within 150m of a home located on the property where the towers and lines would be built). As well, there was some flexibility in tower siting both along the centreline and off of the centreline. The Applicants suggested there would be no difference in property devaluation caused by lattice or monopole towers.